It’s time for a spotlight article on a local band I’ve seen a few times in the past couple months. It's always good to see bands do things themselves, without a label, and Los Angeles-based band Harris Grade is one of those bands. They self-released their first full-length album, Lipstick Politics, back in April. I saw them at the Troubadour for the CD release and picked up a copy for myself, as their blistering set caught my interest.

While the live show is arguably the band’s strongest aspect, the songs on Lipstick Politics aren’t too shabby themselves. Front man Robyn August has a strong voice that carries the upbeat songs well, such as Wildfire and Lipstick Politics (Dirty), which contains the album’s most potent guitar riffs, courtesy of axemen Caleb Healey and Alex Von Hollen.

This record sounds like it was taken out of the early 2000’s and transported to the present day. That’s a good thing in my opinion, as I have a special fondness for bands of that era. Harris Grade captures much of the same energy and catchiness as a good percentage of bands back then seemed to have.

After the aggressive opening to the disc, Call Me Crazy slows things down a bit, with Robyn breathily singing over some acoustic strumming. On tracks like this and Angeles he demonstrates his ability to really sing, and does so pretty well. I think they opened the Troubadour set with this song, with Alex & Caleb sitting on stools, VH1 Storytellers-style.

If there’s a gripe I have with the album is how short many of the songs are; the 1-2-3 punch of Dear Failure, Wildfire, and Lipstick Politics (Dirty) are all under three minutes. I wish they would have been a bit more fleshed out here and there, but that’s not really a big deal.

Sign of the Times is uptempo burner with some nice buzzy guitars, but it’s all over too soon.

Angeles is another acoustic tune, with Robyn lamenting how money and privilege are seen as more important than the things that really matter. A string section kicks in towards the end, and it adds a nice element to the song.

Bassist Jason Friday and drummer Greg Fulleman provide a steady rhythm throughout the album, and live they’re even more powerful. Each band member goes off in concert, running around the stage with an energy and sense of enthusiasm that I used to see bands like Story of the Year employ on various Warped Tour stages.

I can recommend Lipstick Politics to anyone who was a fan of bands of the early 2000’s and beyond, such as the aforementioned Story of the Year, Senses Fail, the Used, Anberlin, and Saosin.

I can also recommend that you check out iTunes for the song Hold On For Your Life, as it was on their previous EP but is not included on this album. It’s a gem.

And if you like anything you hear from Harris Grade, don’t sleep on catching them live, as it’s a lot of fun.